Shakespeare's Sonnets

Understanding Death and Love in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 through Personification College

In his sonnet beginning, “That Time of Year Thou Mayst in me Behold”, William Shakespeare examines the natures of death and love. Shakespeare’s speaker addresses the sonnet to an unknown third party, presumably his lover, and reflects on his current “time of year” (1) in which he is aging and consequently preparing for death. Numerous examples of personification are used throughout this sonnet to explore the certainty of death, the human being as just another part of the natural and mortal world and love as the defining feature that differentiates humans from nature.

In the first stanza, the universal nature of death is explored through the use of personification. In her book, The Art of Poetry, Shira Wolosky, describes personification as “a comparison of a particular kind... (which) always likens something that is not human to the human realm” (93). The speaker in Shakespeare's sonnet informs the reader that all of the natural imagery he refers to can be seen “in me” (1). In this way, he personifies these images, likening them to himself. Consequently, the implied sorrow that he feels regarding “the ashes of his youth” (10), are imposed upon such images as the “sweet birds” (4) and the “yellow leaves” (2). Through this...

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